Sunday, May 31, 2009

Bus foul!

Okay, I really wish RTA would give some folks the power to enforce ettiquete on the bus. Today's bus foul? The cell phone. Okay, so you're allowed to make phone calls on the bus. That's fine. What you really shouldn't do is lean in to the central aisle so you're as close to fellow passengers as possible, and then shout into your phone to drown out the engine. Speak in a low voice, and if the bus is too loud for your party to hear you, don't yell. Just stand and move forward. If you successfully manage this, I and other fellow passengers will not be sorely tempted to snap your phone in half.

Saturday, May 30, 2009


Riding in Riverside is now on Flickr! Why? Because Blogger imposes some space constraints on how many photos I can upload here. Flickr doesn't. I'll continue to post best-of samples here, but I'll just throw everything on the Flickr and let you all decide. :)

By the way, above is CDTX (Amtrak California) #461 as Pacific Surfliner #582, stopped in Santa Ana on it's way to San Diego.

Blogger on board!

Hey all.
I went down to a get-together in Laguna Beach today, and of course I took the train and OCTA. Part of my reasoning in doing this was to test my T-Mobile G1's mobile internet capabilities, and I'm proud to report that they're working well. 3G service in Orange County provides ~600kbps, even from a moving Metrolink train, and EDGE service provides passable data (~150kbps) in less-benighted parts of the world (read: Riverside). I'm very happy with it, and I can see how this will improve my soon-to-be-daily commute to Los Angeles significantly.

I also did a bit of railfanning at the Santa Ana depot while we waited for our train. I'll be posting the photos shortly.

Anyway, for all of you transit riders, I heartily recommend the T-Mobile G1 (with Google). It's an invaluable resource for checking maps and timetables, especially when you're riding an unfamiliar system. One annoyance is that the Google Maps application, which is otherwise great, does not yet include Google Transit data. (Neither does RTA, for that matter.) It does show the locations of stops and stations, but not the services and schedules at those locations. Google promises they're working on it. Otherwise, it's a solid device and well worth the outlay.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Public comments still open.

Sorry for the quietude folks, it's the end of the quarter and that means I'm doing a bit of work finishing up a couple of research projects. However, I wanted to pop in and let you guys know that comments on the 2010-2012 Short Range Transit Plan are now open, and are open until the next RTA board meeting, June 25th of this year.

Yeah, I thought they were done this month too. Whoops!

So anyway, you've already heard my take on the SRTP. Make your own conclusions, and get those comments in!

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Omni to Straphangers: No Barbecue for You!

I rode over to Fontana today, and while onboard the Omnitrans 67 I overheard the driver say something curious. "Nope. None of our buses run on Monday." I thought that this surely must be a mistake on the driver's part, so I checked the Bus Book. True enough, there is no Omnitrans service on Memorial Day, nor Labour Day nor Independence Day. (And obviously none on Thanksgiving or Christmas- bus drivers are people too.) Metrolink will not be operating either, though this seems more reasonable.

What gives, Omni? Most of RTA will run on a Sunday schedule. Do you just hate grilled corn on the cob that much?

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Fare-gate hits home

Many of you may be aware of Fare-gate (some say "faregate-gate"), the upcoming installation of faregates LA County Metro lines, which, combined with the recent mandate of TAP cards for all bus day pass customers, has led to many technological headaches and a PR disaster for Metro. (See this post at The Bus Bench for an example.)

I figured that all of this, while certainly unpleasant for the Los Angelenos, wouldn't affect us suburbanites because, when we do go into LA on transit, we use Metrolink. Metrolink tickets are, of course, valid for full fare on LA county transit operators (except Santa Monica for no good reason), and I assumed that Metro would follow the same pattern that most agencies with faregates use (including SF Muni and BART). They have a station agent booth stationed at the faregates, and customers with passes that must be visually inspected simply flash their pass at the station agent, who allows them through. I've done it many, many times in the Bay Area, and it works fine.

Apparently, LA has to be different. When the faregates are installed and implemented, in Q1 2010, all customers will either have to pay with cash or use a TAP card at all Metro stations. No visual inspection. No exceptions. This throws a monkey wrench into the works for Metrolink riders.

Oh, and there's another thing. Apparently, EZ Pass transit providers have decided that, instead of paying the ~40% reimbursement rate that Metrolink had been paying them for allowing ticketholders passage, they'd now have to come up with the full fare for every customer. This 60% increase in the reimbursement rate for transfer passengers led Metrolink to propose cutting transfer privileges for one-way and round-trip riders, and charging a 30% co-pay to 10-trip and monthly ticketholders for an EZ transit pass, which would correspondingly be loaded onto a TAP card.

One of those proposals survived the board meeting last month. One-way and round-trip tickets will no longer be valid for transfers to LA county bus operators in the near future. (Implementation date unknown at this time.) Oh, and fares are going up 3% in July.

Furthermore, passengers who wish to use Metro buses and (especially) trains come next January will have to load their Metrolink pass or 10-tripper onto a TAP card, at no additional cost but some additional hassle, and a $5 TAP card fee.

That said, passengers who wish to purchase a day pass in LA (even now) will need to have TAP cards, and since Metrolink tickets will no longer be valid for connecting transit in LA, it might be a prudent step to purchase one in the near future, for those once or twice a year trips into the city.

And I don't think I need to mention that Metrolink trips to LA just got a fare bit more expensive.

Lazy, especially on vacation

Automobile dependence is alive and well, even in the furthest reaches of the sea.

(EDIT: It seems the third-party site that hosted the photo I posted here has pulled it, though they do have very nice photos of scantily-clad women. It was a photo of a boat docked next to a small private island, a house on the other side of that (~1/4mi long) island, and a car parked in front of the house.)

Sunday, May 17, 2009

I am not ashamed.

I've avoided saying it on this blog for a while now, just because it's still kind of an ugly word in America, but it's important to the story I want to tell below. I am an atheist. I've always been one, and I can see no reason, barring the Second Coming, that I will believe anytime soon. I'm not ashamed about that either, but that's actually not what this post is about.

It's important because I'm a very active member of the Inland Empire Atheists, a great group of people who share our godless ways, intellectual and philosophical gifts, and all-around fun-loving spirits. Think of us as like a church social group, just without the church. Accordingly, I'm out and about throughout the IE on a very regular basis, often with the same general group of people, most of whom I'm great friends with, and all of whom know that I am a dedicated alternative transport advocate and cyclist. It never fails, when I use alternative transport to get to an IEA event, that somebody will inevitably offer to give me a ride back home.

If any IEA folks are reading this, I really, really appreciate your concern, and I want you to know that I'm not trying to be mean or offensive in any way... but please stop. If I truly need help, I will ask. (And I have. Late-night events in Redlands don't work out well without some way to get home.)

It is this cultural bias in favour of the private automobile that is destroying our society. Well-meaning, well-informed and concerned people, the types of folks who recycle their bottles and cans and make sure to turn out the lights when they leave a room, see a bike or a bus (or the combination thereof) as a punishment. They see my trips on transit as suffering that they'd like to alleviate. While my wife might feel this way, I don't. I truly enjoy my time on transit- it's time for me to listen to music, read a book, people-watch or just stare out the window. I enjoy my bicycle rides- it's time I'm spending getting in shape and thinking, something easily accomplished on a bike. (Try it.)

While riding with somebody is not as hellish as driving (time that I really HATE...), it's still time that my movement is slowly poisoning our planet, and it's time that I am tacitly endorsing the status quo. I have a moral problem with cars. I really, truly do. I think they're evil. I think that much of what is wrong in our society is the direct result of years of automobiles in our streets. I feel guilty every time I'm riding in one. The car is my transport of last resort, and I like it that way. (Not to mention, by the way, that most folks I know drive a vehicle with substantially lower MPG...)

So, to everyone I know... I am an alternative transportation advocate. I am a cyclist, not for sport but just to get around town. I am a bus rider. For all of that, I am not ashamed.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

SRTP Comments

So, I've read through the entire proposed SRTP. Yes, all 199 pages of it. Most of it is tables detailing every aspect of the RTA's operation... accordingly, I have saved the document. It is now squirreled away in RiR's vast archives, and although I can't post it permanently on the site, I'll make it available by request. Anyway, the plan is mostly good, with some glaring bad to it. I'll go through it in order, and blog what stands out.

First comes the capital funding projections. For RTA, this means payin' off some buses (good), and transit centers. Lots of 'em. Fantastic, especially for places like Perris, Moreno Valley, Corona and Hemet, where the Agency is planning for multi-modal centers adjacent to either current (Corona) or future (Perris Valley Line/Hemet Extension) Metrolink stations. This is the sort of development that ties together our region and expands employment and travel opportunities for all citizens throughout the county, and it's fantastic. That RTA is planning for this in Hemet, where Metrolink isn't projected to stop until long past 2012, shows how dedicated the agency is to multi-modal connections, and I commend them for it.

So why is it, exactly, that they don't plan for this in Riverside? Riverside's City Council has made a lot of noise in the last month or so asking for a multi-modal transit center, and the SRTP plans for $3.5 million to be spent rehabilitating the current Downtown Terminal. Huh? RTA, go back and talk with the City a bit, and stick your transit center near the Metrolink where it belongs. That's what the FTA funds are for, that's what the City wants and it's what any sane transit rider would want.

We've already gone over the service "adjustments" ad nauseum here at RiR, and you guys know I don't like 'em. You don't like 'em, and the fact is that RTA doesn't like 'em either. However, I have to bring them up again, because RTA is touting their "Smart Stops" again. As a frequent rider who often boards downtown, I do like the Smart Stop displays, they're fantastic. But the fact is, they aren't installed at "heavily used bus stops in the City of Riverside", as the SRTP says. They're installed at Downtown Terminal (awesome!), University & Lemon (Also a good choice), and in front of RTA. You know, on Blaine street. Where they're reducing service to once an hour. RTA, I'm glad your employees know when the next bus is coming, but judging from the ample parking provided, I'm betting most of them don't care. Maybe you should spend your passenger amenity money on stops like, say, Tyler Mall, or maybe at my stop at Campus and Canyon Crest at UCR. No benches, no trash cans, no shelter, just a bare pole in the earth, and still it's used by 20 or 30 students an hour, all day. Those Smart Stops in front of your building are nothing but a shiny PR stunt, and you know it as well as I do. Move 'em throughout your system, a la San Francisco's NextMuni program, and THEN you can brag about 'em.

I appreciate that the RTA has made it's service standards public, as far as hours of service. Unfortunately, 8:30 is not the time that the last trip starts, but when it ends. Not quite as helpful.

I'm glad you're up front about it, but I can tell you that I don't consider a bus that's 6 minutes late to still be on time. That bus is, in fact, 6 minutes late.

Productivity vs. Coverage target... this is a nice little section here saying, in manager-speak, that you're going to cut rural routes by ~10%. (This is probably the justification for pulling Route 36.) As somebody who grew up in the sort of place that was covered (by VVTA) simply based on the need to be covered, and who grew up without his own car, rural transit service is VERY important. I hope you can figure out your funding issues and ensure the lifeline service that your agency provides to rural Riverside County is not interrupted.

RTA publishes here the standard service span and headways we're supposed to expect from them. This is helpful, especially because we can use these standards to hold their feet to the fire. Like, in the case of Route 49. As a directly-operated regional-class route, it should be running from 05:00 to 21:00 on weekdays. It doesn't. It stops running at 19:45, a full hour and a quarter before it should. I expect an extra trip on that route come June, RTA. Each way. That's my brother-in-law's route, so I will hold you to this.

Here's the "service adjustments" in detail. You can read them for yourself, I linked to this section from my post entitled The Gritty Details. I appreciate, however, that the Agency says it won't cut any trips outside of their service standard times, 06:00 to 20:30. That helps. We still await the June Ride Guide with bated breath.

And now we get to the happy part of the SRTP.
LATE NIGHT SERVICE! WAHOO! WAHOO! Okay, so RTA's definition of "late night" is midnight for some routes, 23:00 for others, but it's a start. Routes 1, 16 and 19 will run through midnight, while 20, 22, 25 and 27 will run through 11 pm. Now, these routes may seem like interesting choices, and I was fully prepared to come on here to criticize them until I looked at this map prepared by The Transit Coalition, highlighting the SRTP's proposed changes over the next few years. It reminded me of this map, the Bay Area's All Nighter network. The focus is not on local routes (though Muni and AC provide them in SF and Oakland), but on regional connections, and this makes sense when you're writing a grant proposal for employment opportunities. Therefore, I applaud RTA's efforts in expanding their nighttime service, and look forward to the day when we can finally close that four-hour gap in our transit service. 24-hour service is a benefit to all, and I believe this is an important step towards that goal.

I also implore you, readers, to ride this service. The SRTP makes it explicitly clear that these projects will be canceled if demand does not materialize. The next time you're out on the town, after January 2010 of course, take the bus.

The SRTP also outlines the preparation for the deployment of the Magnolia Ave. BRT. Yay! Of course, it doesn't say that the BRT will be launched, only that routes will be upgraded to better serve it, starting in 2011. This thing was supposed to be launched way back in 2005... but better late than never, I suppose.

Oh, and one last thing that I like, but am probably way geeky for liking. The 149 to Orange County is going to be re-branded the CommuterLink 216, unifying it with the fare structure and numbering scheme of the rest of the system. Finally.

So that's the SRTP proposal. RiR likes:
Late-night service, BRT, new CommuterLink routes.
RiR dislikes:
Downtown terminal upgrades, the "service adjustment" coming anyway in June.

WE ARE CURRENTLY IN A PUBLIC COMMENT PERIOD!!! You can send your comments on this plan to RTA via e-mail (, telephone (1-800-800-7821), snail-mail (Does anyone still send snail mail? 1825 3rd St. Riverside, CA 92507), or at the Board Meeting on May 28th at 2pm, downtown at the County Administration Building. The building is reachable by routes 1, 10, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 22, 25, 29, 49, 50, 52 (for now), 149, 204, 208, 210, and Omni 215, so no excuses for not being there.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Greyhound Extension

Per the City Council minutes, 4/14/09, Greyhound has been authorized yet another 60 day extension to allow time for the City's staff to produce their report on the Riverside Multi-Modal Transit Center. This puts us sometime in late August now, I believe. Hopefully the staff will come up with a report that recognizes Greyhound's proper place in our transportation infrastructure.

Source: page 4

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

The Gritty Details

Thanks to The Transit Coalition, a group that I must remind myself to get in touch with sometime in the near future, I have gotten my digital mitts on the FY2010-2012 Short Range Transit Plan, which will be open for public comment in the coming weeks. In the plan are details of planned service changes, including the specifics on the upcoming June Disaster. I'm posting a link to the 5 pages of service adjustments, for your reading pleasure. (I know you guys probably don't want to sift through the 150ish page plan... that's what I'm here for... but, if you do, it's available from RTA here.)

Here's the 5 page version.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Win some, lose more...

Contrary to prior reports, the May Rider News lists the #17 as being discontinued in the coming service update. Sorry to my MoVal readers for any confusion this may have caused, and I'm sorry for your loss.

RTA also apparently sneaked something by my watchful eyes- the Downtown Trolley Green Line, route #52, will be suspended in the upcoming "service adjustment." (Euphemism of the year? Possibly premature...) This follows a pattern I've seen before in IE transit, first on the Victor Valley Commuter service years ago. First, you cut service in a way that is superficially justifiable, but makes the route impractical and difficult to use. Then, when the riders that have a choice abandon the route, you cite "low ridership" and pull it out from under the people who've stayed. RTA did this by making the route run on two different routes, within three narrow windows, ostensibly because they were the "productive trips", and then when people didn't want to bother figuring out if there was a bus coming or not, ridership fell and the route's getting axed. Nice, guys.

On the bright side, those expensive new trolleys won't be sitting around going to pot. They'll be (probably) put in service on the new Temecula Trolley, which is set to debut with the new Ride Guide. So Temecula can support a free downtown trolley, but we can't? Beauty.

I have to applaud the addition of the new 212 and 217 routes, between Hemet and Riverside and Escondido respectively. Though I do have to wonder... were 214 and 216 taken?

Let us all hope for an end to these budget woes and the beginning of reasonable investment in Riverside's transit infrastructure.

Thursday, May 7, 2009


Hey, UCR students. If you're like me and you have a summer job somewhere not-Riverside, and one end of your trip (home or work) is near the Riverside-Downtown Metrolink, I urge you to take advantage of Metrolink's College Discount program. If you go visit the Transportation & Parking office between now and May 15th, you can order Monthly or 10-trip passes at a 25% discount for June. When you pick those up in the last week of May, you can order passes for July, and so on for August and September. It's an easy way to save some money and frustration, and keep more of your summer job savings.

Monday, May 4, 2009

How much do you support transit?

I know plenty of people who say that they support better public transit for their city- in fact, most people do, which in some ways makes my job easier. However, ridership for public transport in our city shows that their support is, in many ways, theoretical. The impressive growth of RTA ridership to the unprecedented figure of 800,000 per month is cause for hope, but recall that RTA serves western Riverside county, from Riverside all the way south to Temecula, and east as far as San Jacinto and Hemet. Considering Riverside county boasts nearly 2.5 million people, and extrapolating that probably at least 1.5 million are within RTA's service area (I'm being nice to Banning, Beaumont, Coachella and Blythe here), and further noting that planners estimate around 2.5 trips per person per day... we get a rough mode share of transit in RTA's service area: 0.65%.
(These are back-of-the-napkin calculations. If anyone has better data, do let me know.)

0.65%. Note the decimal.

Now, these numbers are generalized over the entire RTA service area, and so I expect that that number is probably higher in Riverside proper, and much, much lower out on the fringes. Still, it shows the level for real, honest bus-riding support here in Riverside county.

So, how much do you really support transit? Phrased another way, when was the last time you were on a bus or train? Do you have a bus pass in your wallet right now, or a AAA card? How do you get to work or school every day?

We are not going to be able to argue effectively that transit in Riverside is a priority until we can back it up with ridership numbers. If transit were, say, 5% of trips in our city, we would both expose the weakness of the current system and justify massively increased investment into our bus system. Not to mention all the other benefits that riding the bus confers upon the rider and those around them. So, loyal readers, I challenge you: Ride the bus more! Ride the train more! Walk and cycle more! Help us build a sustainable transportation system for our future.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Good news out of RTA!

In this time of cutbacks and cancellations, there is some good news coming out of RTA.

I was looking around the RTA web site and found a copy of July '08's board meeting minutes, wherein a contract to develop and provide Google Transit data for RTA was approved. Sweet! So I sent them an e-mail and asked when this data would be available for use. Reply from Jim Kneepkens, Marketing Director, below:


I hope to have the beta version available on our website within two weeks, going live by the June 28 service change.

Jim Kneepkens

*does a little dance*
Now if only Google would put Transit directions on the G1.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Transit geek porn

This is what gets guys like me excited.

Metrolink (SCAX) #899 as train #364 at Fontana, bound for Riverside. 5/2/09 at ~1430.
I snapped the photo, the train stopped, I got on and came home.

Auto supremacy on display downtown, right now!

I'm heading to Fontana this morning, and since I have the time, I'm taking public transport. Because the schedules didn't quite line up, I rode my bike to the downtown terminal and, much to my delight, I found a good part of downtown streets closed to traffic. I enjoyed the full use of the street for a bit, but then I noticed WHY the streets were closed- a car show. That's right, they closed the streets so they could park cars on them. Oh, and did I mention that the RTA is forced to detour every bus into the terminal via 14th and brockton? Yeah...

When was the last time you saw a bike show closing downtown streets, or a bus detour in place because of an alternative transportation expo? Just another example of the car-centric culture we've cultivated.